Publishers of books that change lives

Recovery, discovery and bucket lists

We live in the era of 24/7 access to information but delayed implementation of our dreams. How often have you said, ‘When we have more money … when the kids have finished school … when we retire.’ Do we really have to wait until we’re about to kick that bucket to find the gumption to follow a dream or would our lives improve if we did it now?

It took a major illness to convince Olympic coach and motivational speaker Mick Miller to do something different. He decided to do a trip of recovery and discovery around Australia – and he didn’t need a fancy motor home or months of planning to do it. Instead he packed up his trusty VolksWagon Beetle The Rocket with a two-man tent, an esky, a sleeping bag, a blender and a few clothes; took a quick look at the map (turned it up the right way), found highway one and drove off.

Of course, life happens, even – especially – on the road. Mick occasionally needed more treatment, the Rocket needed a heap of treatment, and he had to overcome encounters with rain, wind, red dirt storms and giant semi’s. Notwithstanding these challenges, Mick started on his goal to being more present and to live a happier, healthier and more mindful life.

Mick spent fifteen months on the road and recorded his journey along the way. Every couple of weeks he would send a video clip and a bunch of photos to his friend Robyn Ford, who transcribed them into the blog that eventually became Travelling Australia Mick’s Way.

It’s impossible not to get wanderlust browsing through this beautiful hardback tribute to Mick’s journey – 292 pages of magnificent photographs of the iconic Australian landscape peppered with Mick’s thoughtful and often entertaining roadside musings. It’s best enjoyed with your feet propped on the coffee table, and a cuppa and a lamington (or some double chocolate Tim Tams) in hand.

Laura Boon – It’s all write publicity

25 Years On – Rex Finch

In 2001 The Sun-Herald magazine ran a front cover story: Why modern men need Rex Finch. Open the pages and the article begins… ”Among Bookshop shelves groaning with guides to good parenting and healthy relationships, one publisher stands alone.” Not bad for a business started in his front room. 16 years on from that front page and 25 years since the start of Finch Publishing, Rex Finch reflects on what has been a wild ride in Australian Publishing.

In 1992, after nearly 20 years working in publishing, the only way I would have set up my own business was if I lost my position as Publisher at Doubleday. And, lo and behold, that’s what happened. I set up in late 1992 in the front room at home – with a lovely little family but no spare money.

So for two years I produced books for other publishers and a range of self-publishing authors. My then wife Vicki managed the bookkeeping in the evenings after work.

The concept behind the business was that it would be a backlist nonfiction publishing house with a narrow band of categories: parenting, child care, health, relationships and social issues. These were the genres I felt most comfortable with in those days. They were also reasonably reliable in terms of sales and I believed we had a distinctive Australian voice, especially in contrast with the UK and the US.

During that time, I had signed up Steve Biddulph who had an excitingly different manuscript, ‘A Handbook of Men’s Liberation’ – which we published in 1994 as Manhood. At that time the market was focused on books for women – and so this book was seen as a ‘brave’ proposition. However, Manhood received good reviews and reports from the trade indicated that women were buying it 9:1 over men. They knew only too well the struggles that many men in their lives were having. As testament to that, we sold 40,000 copies in the first 18 months, and then changed the cover and sold another 40,000 copies in the following 9 months. It was during that second phase that retailers saw a significant change – men buying multiple copies for friends.

Finch Publishing operated out of the front room at home for the first 7 years, and only published another two books in the two years following Manhood. Everything was freelanced. However, once we began work on Steve Biddulph’s Raising Boys we were dealing with tight schedules, first-class freelancers (editing, design, printing and publicity) and the need to fund a big printrun. In September 1997 we released Raising Boys to a public that had been promoted to for up to a year at Steve’s national talks. It literally took off, and we received widespread publicity. At one point we were reprinting monthly in 20,000 copy batches at a time.

Both Manhood (1994) and Raising Boys (1997) went on to become constant sellers across the decades. By late 1999 we realised we needed staff – and so we moved out of the front room and found ourselves an office and a strong publishing program.

Fast forward to 2008: we had a developed a strong list of 75 titles and a small 4-person team in-house. There was much humour and chat and a never-ending bucket load of work. All good fun though. Over the years it seemed our best mix was always a marketing and publicity person, an editorial manager, a bookkeeper and myself (commissioning, foreign rights and carrying boxes down to the post office before closing!).

Our list still reflected the core genres – but by then they had grown and become specialised: childcare, parenting, women’s health, men’s health, teenage health, relationships & society and social ecology (this last one was a synthesis of all my interests).

The business in 2017 (25 years down the track) is a slimmer operation, with reduced retail sales, fewer foreign rights, and a strong focus on digital media. We’ve had to accommodate regularly to changes in the book market, and move adroitly in tight times. However, the biggest achievement is that we still get excited by new books for our list and we have an office full of laughter to balance the hard work. Our team of part-time staff works well together and we continue to build a list we are proud of.

Anne Tonner winner of 2017 Finch Memoir Prize has a chat with Samantha Miles and Sarah Blundell from Finch

Congratulations to our winner Anne Tonner, find out a little about her writing process and what lead her to write Cold Vein.

Coming May 2017

Book of the Month May 2016: The Grass Was Always Browner

Trans-Tasman author Sacha Jones loves the wry quirkiness that is distinct to Australian humour. She has used it liberally throughout her memoir recounting her adolescence in Frenchs Forest, Sydney, when all she wanted was to be Russian and a ballerina, not a regular girl in an ordinary boring suburb with a fake forest.

In this interview, she talks to Jennifer Little at Massey University, University of New of The Grass Was Always Browner

Creative writing papers at Massey University helped Sacha Jones realise the numerous notebooks she had filled with stories of her improbable Sydney childhood, might become a book for publication.

The Grass Was Always Browner (Finch Publishing, Australia) – published in May – is a colourful, comic memoir about growing up in the seventies, the middle of three close-together children with two impractical, over-the-hill parents in northern Sydney.

Overcoming various challenges, including chronic asthma and being the wrong build for ballet, Jones goes on to become something of a ballet star, winning a host of scholarships and competitions to become a principal dancer in the Sydney City Ballet. She even dances the lead in Giselle at the Sydney Opera House. All the while her father disapproves, describing ballet as; “a selfish, frivolous pursuit, too focused on appearances.” He, by contrast, is trying to save the Third World by writing a book in economic theory.

Read the rest of the feature here.

Staff Pick: Book of He

What a pleasure it was to work on this book with Peter! I must have seen each cartoon at least 30 times and I still Book of He coverllaugh every single time. Wry and sophisticated, with a touch of melancholy, this collection of cartoons is really an excuse to have a good laugh for half an hour.

Samantha Miles

Staff pick: Becoming a Mother

Becoming a Mother: A journey of uncertainty, transformation and falling in love by Leisa Stathis

I was very moved by Leisa’s approach in this book – a deeply compassionate view of how women experience early motherhood. Some of the stories were powerful for me, particularly the one where she witnessed a new mother playing attentively with her toddler – and (after some indecision) deciding to congratulate her for being such a caring mum. It was a tearful moment for that mother – as it was the first time anyone had said what a good job she was doing.

The joy in this book is knowing the gift it will be for so many new mothers. At its heart, Becoming a Mother is about mothers allowing themselves the opportunity of getting to know their new child. In the midst of all the turmoil of her new life there is so much for a mother to take in, especially if she is also struggling with sleep deprivation, underconfidence and social isolation.

Yet Leisa encourages new mothers to resist the temptation to get everything right … and to allow themselves to help for new mothersbe a ‘good enough’ mother instead. She shows us why this is such a vital time for the mother to become attuned to her baby, and how for some it can be a struggle to bond.

This book has passages of profound power and deep empathy with new mums. She writes: ‘In the moment of birth it is not only a baby that is born, but a mother too’. Leisa encourages the reader to permit a little compassion towards themselves as they encounter the pressures and concerns of the first year. In Becoming a Mother she helps women look into what the relationship is they are building with their new baby ­– one that can be so rewarding if it is free of negativity, overwhelm or perfectionism.

Rex Finch


Staff Pick: Elvis and Me

For me, reading Elvis and Me contained marvellous surprises. Yes, there’s the complex relationship between the two central characters – Elvis a grumpy neglected ex-racehorse, and Gillian a musician needing more fulfilment. But what captured me were the other, unexpected, layers.

In essence, this story is really about the courage and determination to pursue a dream. It’s also about how the unfolding of events often reveals to us something unrecognised within our own spirit. What is our real passion? What do we discover about ourselves when we decide to pursue our dream? What happens when a long-held dream turns into another wholly unexpected passion?

In Gillian’s case, beyond the fears and struggles, this discovery is something to celebrate. Elvis is for Gillian more than a rescue project. She recognises in him a connection with the passions and the life-force that are central to her successful career in music. By owning Elvis, she chooses to live her dream – not just have it on hold.

Throughout the story, Gillian introduces us to many delightful characters, both two-legged and four-legged. We witness unending sums of money disappearing in vet fees, agistment, feed, trainers and endless medical work.

This wonderfully told story presents many lessons, the legacy of mistakes, doubts and struggles. Here are two: How to decide whose advice not to follow; and how to accept the reality that owning a horse means really means that the horse actually owns you!

Thank you, Gillian, for an uplifting and most unexpected ending.

Ten Questions with Lana Penrose

Care For Kids published a feature 22 April on depression, especially as it affects mums. It included this Q&A with Lana Penrose, depression survivor and author of The Happiness Quest:

1. Tell us about yourself in 10 words or less

I’m an everyday human being doing her best to care about other human beings. (You’ll notice I Lana Penrosealso can’t count.)

Read more

Would you recognise the symptoms of exercise addiction?

One of the five key signs is that you have to exercise every day to feel normal. To discover the rest, read Kasey Edwards full article in Daily Life, in which she chats to Vanessa Alford.

Vanessa Alford

Vanessa Alford

Vanessa wrote her memoir Fit not Healthy after acknowledging her exercise addiction. She hopes her book can help others.


Tapping for calm to enhance your loving relationship

Louise GabrielI’ve always been interested in what attracts people to one another. When I’ve asked men what made them choose their partner and how they knew she was the One, the answer I hear over and over again Is “she was normal”. I know, not quite the romantic accolades I was expecting, but fascinating nevertheless.

Digging a little deeper I found that when women react strongly to things and go on the attack over a missed phone call, a night with the boys, forgetting their six week anniversary, men start to question the feelings they have for them. And it can stop a budding love story in its tracks. It sounds shallow but you’ll find that men are incredibly sensitive to this sort of thing. Why? Because you’re the person they were hoping they could relax with. And spending their life tiptoeing around their significant other isn’t their idea of fun.

So if you tend to be a bit “jumpy” or you have been hurt in the past you need to ensure your brain is wired for a more peaceful vibe, with your fight/flight response turned down if you want to enjoy the relationship of your dreams. Love shines best in a peaceful heart. This isn’t about excusing bad behaviour. This is about giving your future person-and yourself-a break.

Tapping can help with this. It sends a calming signal to the brain. When you unfire and unwire your “relationships are risky” pathways, and wire in “love is safe and a very good idea” you minimise the sort of reaction that has prospective loves running for cover. It allows for positive neural change and it makes you a lot happier and less reactive. And the best place to start is at the beginning, accepting yourself even while you’re still feeling a little jumpy or unsure. Watch Unsingle’s Tapping Into Love” video to get started. You have nothing to lose but those tricky, sticky blocks to love.

LOUISE GABRIEL is the author of Unsingle: The art and science of finding true love. Available in paperback and ebook from 1 December 2014.